Cleveland Black CB irons
Have you ever been watching TV, maybe late at night, or maybe in the middle of the day, and seen a commercial for something that was so mind-bendingly stupid that you asked yourself: “Who the hell would buy that?” I hate to break it to you, but a lot of time and money was spent analyzing that very question, and the answer that the TV executives, MBAs, marketing wonks, and social psychologists came up with was: you.
Companies of any size are, by their nature, not very adventurous. American lore is filled with the story of the plucky little company that could, but for every Google, there’s an IBM. For every Tesla there’s a GM. Companies get big by taking risks, but they stay big by not screwing up. So they research their markets very carefully, and they make the products that they think they can sell in giant batches. So most manufacturers offer a set of products that work well for most people. It’s the “one size fits most” approach.
So what happens to the people who stray from the curve? In the past I’ve mentioned my attempts to get in shape (although, technically, round is a shape). In practical terms that means that I’ve gone from a 36/38 waist to a 30/32 waist. Alas, despite my best efforts my legs haven’t gotten any longer, so I still require a 29″ inseam. And that is the rub. Apparently one of the assumptions that manufacturers make about people with 29″ inseams is that they need 36+” waists. In other words, short people are also fat. I could go into almost any store and buy 36w/29l pants, but now that I’m closer to square (also a shape!), I have to either order my pants from the Internets and hope they fit, or do unspeakable things to butter up my wife, who can take fabric and thread and do magic. (Clean the garage? Are you sick?) The point being that if you’re not one of “most”, you find yourself having to make do with what you can get.
The golf equivalent of the 29 inch inseam is the 90 mph swing speed. If you have a swing speed between 85-95 mph, need help getting the ball in the air, and just want to hit it as straight as possible, you can walk into any golf retailer and choose from a selection of cutting-edge golf technology designed to help players like you. You’ll find clubs with large, forgiving heads, light, bendy shafts, and deep, low CGs designed to help you get the ball in the air, make it go straight, and minimize the penalty for missing the middle of the club face. You’re a 36″ waist, relaxed fit.
Golf equipment companies find themselves in a dilemma. The reality is that there are lots of players, perhaps even most players, with swing speeds between 85-100 mph. Not all of these players need ultimate forgiveness and higher ball flight. Many of them are very good players – they make solid contact most of the time, they like to move the ball in at least one direction, and they sometimes need to control their ball flight. They want a shaft that helps them stay on plane and gives good feedback, and they prefer a smaller, cleaner look at address. What they don’t want is to admit that they have a swing speed under 105 mph. Heck, a lot of players simply assume that their swing speed is over 105 because the clubs marketed to players with swing speeds below that aren’t what their game needs.
If that’s you, you owe it to yourself to take a good, long look at the new Cleveland CG Black CB irons, because with the Black CBs, Cleveland is betting that there’s a market for players who swing at mortal speeds but still have some game.
The first piece of good news is that taking a long look at the CG Black CBs is easy, because they look good. The glossy black finish and silver accents are slimming and easy on the eye, making the Black CBs look compact and purposeful. I measured the heads and found them to be essentially the same length and height as my previous Super Game Improvement irons, but I’ll confess to measuring them multiple times because my eyes still don’t believe what the tape measure is telling me. Combine the slimming black finish with a thin-ish top line and very moderate undercut (the undercut is only visible at address for the 4 iron) and you grasp right away that these are not Super Game Improvement clubs. I really like the way the black club head frames the golf ball – despite being roughly the same size as my SGIs, the black finish and thinner silhouette make me feel that I’m hitting the big golf ball with the little club, instead of the other way around.
Cleveland designed the Black CB to do more than look good, however. They feature the same low swing MOI engineering as other new products in the Cleveland/Srixon line, which promotes higher head speed for the same effort, and a sweet spot that is not only 20% larger than the 588 MT, but significantly hotter as well. And because length without accuracy just means hitting it farther into the woods, the new Black CB irons are the most accurate iron in Cleveland’s lineup, with a significantly smaller dispersion radius than the 588 MT and tested competitors’ irons.
To make sure that you can actually use all of this engineering, Cleveland offers the CG Black CBs with top-shelf shaft options. My testers came with the steel Nippon NS Pro 1050 in the Regular flex that’s appropriate for my swing speed, and I love this shaft. The 106-gram weight works very well with in the Black CB irons, giving excellent feedback about what the head is doing while giving a balanced D3 swing weight that promotes a smooth swing. For those who prefer graphite, Cleveland offers the CG Black CB irons with the UST Recoil 660/670 in A, R, and S flexes.
The user interface is a Lamkin X-10 grip bearing the Cleveland logo. I’ve always been a fan of the Lamkin Crossline, and the slightly lighter weight of the X-10 works well on the CG Black CBs.
When the time comes to put all of these parts to work, the Black CBs don’t disappoint. The thinner profile and high-strength HT 1770 steel face deliver a very different feel from my old clubs, along with a sharper sound at impact. They also deliver a penetrating, mid-high ball flight that is easy to flight to suit conditions. I’m not the most accomplished of golfers, but it only took a couple of range sessions before I was comfortable shaping shots in either direction. Combine that with the ability to flight the ball up or down and what used to be”chip it out and take your medicine” starts to look a lot more like “I can get it close to the green from here.”
And you can get it close to the green from a fair way off with the CG Black CBs. At first blush I thought I’d lost some distance from my previous SGI clubs, but apparently we just needed to get to know each other, because now I’m hitting it as long as ever, and significantly more accurately.
Which is the real advantage of the CG Black CB irons, particularly over SGI clubs. I’m Instagramming a lot more approach shots now that I’m playing the Black CBs. Tighter dispersion means that good shots have a better chance to be really good. I’m hitting a lot more greens in regulation since I started playing the CG Black CB irons, and even better I’m hitting closer to the flag on average. If you want to score well, having 10-15 foot putts instead of 20-30 foot ones is a big help.
Last but certainly not least is the question that plagues all clubs that don’t have the ubiquitous chrome finish: how do they hold up? I’ll spare you the suspense. After 15+ rounds, some hitting from bare dirt, pine needles, and questionable fairways, my Cleveland CG Black CB irons look almost as good as new. The finish has held up beautifully, even muting some of the normal signs of wear. In preparation for my spring golf trip I even washed them, and after 10 rounds or so a quick pass with soapy water and a soft brush made them sparkle. I plan on keeping the Black CBs in my bag for a long time to come, and I’m confident that the finish will hold up.
So don’t let concerns about the finish keep you from trying the Cleveland CG Black CB irons. If “one size fits most” doesn’t work for your game, these irons could be the perfect fit.
As always you can learn more about the Cleveland CG Black CB irons at Cleveland’s website.